In a few months, Lucas Piazon will be celebrating ten years as a Chelsea player. Well, maybe not celebrating too much. And “Chelsea player” is being used in a very loose and strictly technical sense. Piazon hasn’t played for the Blues since 2012, though he did make a surprise bench appearance in early 2019 before leaving on loan again.
Throughout those years, Piazon’s relationship with Chelsea, with the Loan Army, and his own career (once billed as the “Next Kaka”) has constantly evolved, but not necessarily in a good way. In interviews, he’s both criticized and thanked the club and the system, while also declaring no regrets but that mistakes were made. As he says, it’s complicated.
Perhaps no player in the history of this experiment has been stuck in Loan Army Limbo as long and as badly as he has been, and that’s clearly taken its toll, even as it guaranteed a steady income and job security at the expense of personal life stability.
“Well, after a certain point the connection is no longer beneficial for both parties. At first I felt really good. I went through the under-23s, got to team A and even in the first loans I felt that Chelsea had expectations and interest in me. I believed that I could come back and have opportunities at any time.
“Later, with the passing of the seasons, I became just another business for them. They lent me with the expectation of selling me and making some money with me. I think that’s more or less what they think. I have to accept, because I also agreed to renew my contract with them. I was told that they would only lend me if I renewed and I accepted.
“It was a complicated relationship. They often didn’t like what I said in the interviews, but I wanted to make it very clear that I was very happy in my early years at Chelsea.”
It’s easy to blame one party or another, but as is often the case in real life, there are no clear villains in this story, and no easy solutions to a codependent though ultimately not necessarily a beneficial relationship. And neither side has been willing to cut their losses.
“In the early years it was Chelsea who suggested this or that club to me and explained the reasons. From the age of 22/23 on, it stopped being that way, because the biggest interest started to be to lend me to be sold.
“Paulo Ferreira [does still give me feedback]. Paulo came to Vila do Conde to see many games, especially before the pandemic. I have known him for many years, we were colleagues at Chelsea and he has a huge affection for my family. Paulinho sends me many messages, he is a spectacular person. He is responsible for the athletes loaned by Chelsea.”
At the same time, none of Piazon’s loan teams have followed through with a transfer. Reading and Fulham both passed after successful stints (the latter of the two-year variety, even). Now it’s Rio Ave’s turn, and they’ll have to make a decision by the end of this season on Piazon, who will be 27 by then and finishing his second season on loan at the Portuguese top divison side.
“I’ve never had horrible experiences, I’ve never played in a bad club and I’ve lived a lot. I was in good places, I learned a lot and it will always be like this. I’m doing my second year at Rio Ave and if I have to leave Portugal I will leave without any problems, because I’m used to it.”
-Lucas Piazon; source: Mais Futebol via Google Translate
We can only hope things go well enough for Piazon and Rio Ave that he can finally wake up from his loan limbo. The team finished fifth in the Primeira Liga last season (Piazon making 19 appearances and scoring 2 goals), equaling their best ever finish and qualifying for the Europa League, where only an epic penalty shootout against AC Milan prevented them from reaching the group stages (Piazon converted his take).